Thursday, April 2, 2009

Could JetBlue depart Long Beach Airport?

AIRLINE: Officials say the carrier is weary of airport improvements' slow pace.
By John Canalis and Paul Eakins, Staff Writers

LONG BEACH - Citing frustrations with the slow pace of improvements at Long Beach Airport, a JetBlue executive said Wednesday that the airline cannot rule out leaving or reducing services at the city-owned airport.

Company spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said the carrier is not formally considering leaving the airport but that "everything is on the table," as it evaluates its Southern California strategy.

"It's fair to say that we love Long Beach," she said of JetBlue's West Coast hub, "and we love Long Beach as much as our customers do, and as much as our employees, and we want it to work, and if it doesn't, we'll have to make a decision."

Dervin said the carrier has grown weary of the pace of improvements at the city-owned airport. The company wants a new terminal - though the city is considering scaling back the 89,000-square-foot expansion proposal - to replace temporary trailers and a new parking structure.

"Our expectations were that Long Beach would absolutely be a JetBlue anchor for our West Coast operations, and all of the things that are associated with that - first-class terminal, parking for our customers and the ability to grow responsibly and have a great community partner," Dervin said of when JetBlue began service at the airport in 2000. "What we have today is barely better than what we started with."

At the same time, she said, the company is "highly committed to staying in Long Beach and making it what was promised to us when we arrived there."

Several city officials said they had not been told that JetBlue is weighing its regional strategy and that the approval and funding processes for the parking lot and terminal are indeed moving forward, albeit slowly.

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